Sometimes I think about my sixteen-year-old self and whisper, "I'm sorry."
She had so many grand expectations of the next few years of her life, sure that with each new page on the calendar something amazing was on its way. She was a big dreamer with a big heart; she was big all over. She was self-conscious of every movement, every word, yet blurted out the first thing on her mind because she couldn't contain her excitement in discovering them. She wore swishy dresses and grew long, princess hair, and spent entire days worrying over the fact she maybe stood out a little too much.
She was such a romantic—everyone teased her for it. Love seemed like such an easy, tangible thing and she was positive she'd find him around every turn. At every bookstore, coffee shop, walk in the park, she kept a keen eye open for that special someone who might literally materialize from her dreams. She read the greatest love stories and wept tears both joyful and bitter. She sang everywhere, half-hoping some guy would hear and fall madly in love like a Disney movie.
She was painfully innocent and just as painfully not, vaguely aware of some deep wounds from dark events but ever-optimistic that they were a thing of the past, easily forgotten. She dreamed of universities and creative writing groups, of traveling Europe and baking beautiful things. She wanted to find her place in the world and was practically screaming for it to appear.
I think I failed her. I let her tender heart get stolen and bruised until she learned to build a cage around it. Those starry eyes full of hope and wonder so often get stuck on the ground now, that madly-whirling brain shoved into neat boxes. Her body didn't grow strong and lean like she desperately wished, and I didn't hone its shape. There's no book bearing her name on the shelf, no ring on her finger, no sweetheart to hold her hand.
She thought a lot about how nice it might be to hold someone's hand, or rather, to have them hold hers. She hoped her hand was soft enough, hated it for being large and capable, and compensated by imagining an even larger, rougher hand around it with little callouses and a grip that promised to never let go. That wasn't too much to ask for, a hand to hold. I didn't think so then, anyways.
My heart gives this sad, funny jolt when I wonder what she'd think of me now, of the woman she grew into. I think she would feel a little heartbroken, seeing me alone. She used to proudly say that she wanted to be married between twenty to twenty-one and start having kids by twenty-three, thank you very much. I never did find him, despite all my sideways glances while buying all those chocolate mochas.
Would she be proud of me? Hate me? Pity me? Would she hug me to her and whisper that everything was alright, then quote something lovely from Anne of Green Gables or smack me with a copy of Harry Potter and tell me stop pondering and seize the day?
Maybe she'd be thrilled—I got her to Europe, after all, and even speak French. I'm properly writing a book, slow as it goes, which is more than the myriad dreams and fanfiction she spent hours composing. Maybe she'd tell me to get off my laptop now and go wandering down random French alleyways, eating as many pastries as I could.
What I wouldn't give to go back and warn her of what was to come, or to whisper secrets of the most amazing adventures she would have. I wish I could hug her, just once, and tell her to stop doubting herself before it grows into a nasty habit that will follow her into her twenties (too late). I wish she'd tell me to sing more and to keep peeking around my book for him. I wish I could tell her to try and love herself; it's a daily challenge now.
She never fit, but I've carved her a place in the world. I am scarred, maybe a little embittered, but her passion rests just beneath the surface waiting to burst free. She was sometimes scared to be, so I claim my right to exist with a fury. She refused to give up, so why should I?
Sometimes I think about my sixteen-year-old self and think, "I'll keep trying."